finding your inner compass
Have you ever felt like this picture- messy, chaotic, cluttered, and confused? Yes? You’re not alone. Me too.
Insert: IMAGINED DRAMA
I was in the studio painting and expecting to have a magical experience. You know… paint a lovely painting effortlessly as I twirl around the canvas with my paintbrush that’s somehow turned into a magic wand. I create an intuitive masterpiece and post it my website and someone is deeply impacted by it, buys it, and it changes their life.
Insert: REALITY (ha!)
Instead, I was stuck with a painting that felt awful to me. I didn’t like the way it looked. I wanted it to be pretty, neat, organized and peaceful. Instead, it looked like confusion, chaos, and clutter. I kept adding more color and more marks as I desperately tried to change it into something “beautiful.” That’s when the word ‘choice’ came to me. I painted it in the center. I took a step back and saw the painting for what it was in that moment: a teacher.
Insert: AHA! MOMENT
I realized, the beauty of this painting was in the process of creating it, not in the product. It is beautiful- not because it's an intuitive masterpiece, but because it's an offering of metaphor and insight.
The process of painting is a metaphor for living and choosing. Do I choose this color or that? Do I make this mark or that? If I cover up this area of the painting will I regret it? What choices did I make that led me to this moment? How can I choose to see this painting differently?
I started thinking about people in my life who’ve recently made difficult decisions (myself included). During those times when it feels like the world is dark and dreary and I'd rather just stay in bed and hide under the covers and my mind is saying things couldn't POSSIBLY get better and I make a decision that I know is best for me, I’m always thankful I did. Sometimes I don't feel that thankfulness until years later, but I always feel it at some point- like a sense of... okay, things were really difficult for a while, but it was worth it to ____________ because now ____________.
Life is full of decisions, big and small, and our future is made up of the choices we make today.
FINDING YOUR INNER COMPASS BY CONNECTING WITH YOUR BODY
One of the ways that I connect with my voice of clarity is by checking-in with my body.
What do I notice happening in my body when I think about _______________?
What sensations are present in my body when I talk about ________________?
When I imagine _____________, what sensations and feelings arise in my body?
If my body could speak, what would it say about __________?
If _________ sensation could speak, what would it say?
Simply taking a couple of minutes to notice what’s happening in my body can move me closer to a sense of clarity.
FINDING YOUR INNER COMPASS BY CONNECTING WITH YOUR CORE VALUES
Values are desired qualities of ongoing action and describe how we want to engage with the world (and with ourselves) on an ongoing basis. Values can change over time and no value is “better” or “worse” than another.
Core values are the values that you believe will create the most meaningful, fulfilling life. Once you become clear about your core values, they can serve as an inner compass, guiding you to choose behaviors that lead to a purposeful and meaningful life.
Okay, so let’s pretend you’ve become clear about your core values and you’re still having difficulty making decisions that contribute to a life of purpose and meaning because your mind is saying all kinds of unhelpful things to you...
MOVIE SCREEN OF THE MIND
Often in counseling sessions, I describe our mind and thoughts this way:
Let’s pretend that we have two movie screens hanging on the wall in front of us- my movie screen and your movie screen. Our mind is like the movie screen and our thoughts are like the movie playing. If we could sit back in our comfy chairs and watch the movies playing we would see all kinds of scenes and scenarios- some that make sense and others that don’t. Our movies may skip around from scene to jumbled scene or they may be stuck on repeat with the same scene playing over and over…
If we can stay in our chairs and watch the movie, rather than getting up and jumping into the scene that's playing, we will have a better vantage point for what is helpful and unhelpful.
Let me explain what I mean by that…
The movies in our minds are simply movies playing. Some of the movie scenes are helpful to watch and listen to and other scenes are not.
THOUGHTS ARE JUST THOUGHTS
You may be wondering... if thoughts are "just thoughts" then how do I know what thoughts to believe?
Ask yourself, “If I listen to this thought will it bring me closer to what I value or further away?"
For example, let’s pretend you're invited to a social gathering where you will not know many people. You accept the invitation and then the day of the event your mind starts playing a movie scene of you feeling anxious, awkward, and uncomfortable at the gathering. In the scene (which is starting to feel more like a clip from a horror movie) you don’t know what to say to people and everyone thinks you’re boring and weird.
You catch yourself and realize that rather than watching the movie, you had become a character in the movie. You “step out of the movie” and view it as an observer.
Even though your mind is telling you that it doesn't want to go to the social event, you check in with your values and recognize that you value connection, playfulness, and authenticity, so you make the decision to go to the event based on your values and not on the unhelpful movie playing in your mind.
CONNECTING WITH YOUR INNER COMPASS: OTHER QUESTIONS TO ASK
Is engaging in this behavior in line with my values?
Am I caught up in the movie right now or watching it as an observer?
A day (or a week/month/year) from now, what will I wish I did today?
What do I need right now (examples, connection, playfulness, security, safety, validation, a big glass of water, a nap, to scream, to cry, a hug)?
If I do ___________ is it in line with my values?
Will doing __________ support my values?
What values are most important in this moment?
Angela Marino, LCSW, RYT is an artist, counselor, writer, and Kripalu-certified yoga teacher who offers trauma-informed, holistic, and mindfulness-based online and in-person counseling in Asheville, NC. Please visit her at www.angelamarinolcsw.com, instagram, and etsy.